Every once in awhile a film comes along that hits on all the right elements: powerful acting, intelligent script, superb direction and perfect timing.
This is the case for Hidden Figures, a biographical drama about mathematician Katherine Johnson and her co-workers Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. In the early 1960s, they worked in NASA's segregated Langley Research Center. Due to the calculations of these three women, John Glenn became the first American astronaut to complete an orbit around the Earth. Directed by Theodore Melfi, the film exquisitely tells the story of these major players ignored by history.
Hidden Figures is a must-see film of the 2016.
Taraji P. Henson delivers one of the best performances of her career as Katherine Johnson, a brilliant mathematician who is grappling with the disgusting racism and sexism of her job. She is doubted, disrespected and dismissed, but overcomes with sheer determination. Henson breathes that Black girl magic into Johnson's story with nuance and grace. Oscar winner Octavia Spencer also delivers and Janelle Monae, who was in this year's Moonlight, proves she has a long acting career ahead. These three women glow on screen. Spencer was already recognized with a Critics Choice Award and Golden Globe nomination, and if all things are fair, Taraji P. Henson will earn her second Oscar nomination for the film.
The supporting cast includes Jim Parsons as a bigoted co-worker. Oscar winner Kevin Costner plays the headman in charge. Their portrayals highlight the nuances of racism and sexism. It's not hurling the n-word; it's not always what is said, but what isn't said. Written by Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder, Hidden Figures isn't a trite, us-versus-them film about racism in the 1960s. The characters are deeply layered, as is the engaging story.
At first glance, a movie about mathematicians might not seem interesting. However, Melfi and his flawless cast told the story with respect and emotion all while being one of the most entertaining, dramatic films of the year. Hidden Figures isn't about math, it's about the power of fighting for your right to freely exist — seriously important right now, considering our troubling political times. This is the movie America needs right now.
Hidden Figures is in theaters Christmas Day.
(Photo: Hopper Stone / Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)